Nigeria as a high ranking oil exporter now experiencing crippling economy due to drastic reduction in crude oil prices. This is evidence of our lack of foresight and a poor saving culture.
Surely, the current situation is partly a self-inflicted pain as it could have been avoided with more prudent management of the nation’s resources. Our current situation has been signposted by inability of many state government to meet salary obligations, with its attendant till on the welfare of public service workers.
Gratefully, however, the federal government has responded with what has been described as a ‘bailout 1’, ‘bailout 2’ and the international ‘Paris Club Fund’ to ameliorate the problem and help the affected states meet their salary obligations. Yet, some states are owing public service workers more than 15 months salaries just as the case in Kogi state and some other states in the federal republic of Nigeria.
We have previously faced the challenge of boom to burst in the oil sector, which produces majority of our nation’s income. In the 1970’s we witnessed an oil boom period when, appreciably, we invested in massive infrastructure development but we failed to save for the rainy day. Those boom years were quickly replaced by the borrowing years of the 1980’s.
Another regime of high crude oil prices unexpectedly came upon us between 2011 and 2014, but this time, we only went on a spending spree with low commensurate investment. We also did not save as much for the future because we did not learn from our history. Alas, in late 2014, market forces swing into action and prices went on a downward spiral. Since then, we’ve been bearing the brunt of below-budget-benchmark crude oil prices without savings to rely on and the economy seriously impugned.
The compelling lessons of history become important here. “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelon, the late American poet.
Instructively, the most important lesson from this predicament is that we cannot afford to go back to the old ways just because the federal government has provided immediate respite. We must come together as a people to consciously deliberate on the most effective and prudent way of managing the commonwealth in order to improve our living conditions and bequeath worthy legacies to future generations. And such a discussion can only start by asking ourselves: how did we get here? Luckily, the answer to that is not hard to decipher. We have acquired infamous reputation as a high consuming nation with embarrassing low productivity. Little wonders we ran into trouble waters.
Temporary (bailouts) measures are only for the short term, they do not address the fundamental problems. A permanent panacea is required beyond palliatives. We must take that collective decision to redress our consumption-production imbalance in favour of production, because excess consumption beyond income stifles growth and savings. A welcome development that the present administration has conveyed is to pursue new economic frontiers other than crude oil; especially agriculture, solid minerals and mining. I kowtow that Nigerians must embrace this. We need to focus on economic sectors that can expand our productive capacities and also engage the mass of our people. As once said by Murray Bruce that we must borrow a leaf from the book of William E. Simon, who said: “Productivity and the growth of productivity must be the first economic consideration at all times…”
I know, Nigerians are ever ready to deploy their God given energy and talents to productive ventures once provided with the ample opportunities to do so. It is only now imperative for hurriedly articulate lucid economic (fiscal and monetary) policies, enact enabling laws and create the right environment to jump start the economy through productive activities in new and existing sectors.
Without increasing our productive capacities and capabilities, I do not think we can overawe yesterday’s problems or secure a prosperous future. We also need a significant paradigm shift with strong commitment to backward integration and diversification of sources of income. This can be achieved by expanding processing capacity of our abundant natural resources so we can produce more added finished goods for local consumption and exports. Doing this will indeed enable us to make the move from a nation of potential to that of capacity, capability and competence in the management of our resources.
Dear God, I beseech you to grant we (Nigerians) wisdom, guidance and empowerment; that we may be able to create the best out of the wonderful resources you have blessed us with.
Happy Democracy Day Nigerians!!!
Written By: Yusuf Adeyinka Placid
Student Journalist, Public Affairs and Policy Analyst,_
Osun State University.
_Monday, May 29, 2017._